Thursday, June 14, 2012

Use federal grant funds to train forensic scientists

Last week at the Forensic Science Commission's "roundtable," a common lament was that there exists no state-level source of training and continuing education funds for forensic scientists and technicians comparable to those for prosecutors, defense lawyers and judges. Many agencies have slashed or eliminated training budgets, we were told, with the situation especially acute at "fee for service" labs. I'd suggested some of the federal grant funds flowing through the Governor's Criminal Justice Division toward "border security" measures would be a good fit for that purpose. So I was pleased to see this press release announcing training for Texas crime scene investigators financed through the CJD. From the lede:
The Texas Forensic Science Academy (TFSA) at TEEX has received a $425,000 training grant from the Governor’s Office, Texas Criminal Justice Division. The grant will allow TFSA to deliver 27 tuition-free courses to over 540 crime scene investigators across the State of Texas. The grant also provides funding to convert its entry-level Basic Criminal Investigation course to an on-line course for easier access statewide.
After Texas eliminated federal grant funds to the state's regional drug task forces in 2006, Gov. Rick Perry shifted a great deal of money which previously sustained them to various border operations by DPS and pork-barrel grants to local agencies, some of which have been criticized for delivering little bang for the buck. Grits has little doubt that money would be better spent ensuring forensic scientists have adequate training (not to mention bolstering indigent defense), and am glad to see the funds going toward that purpose. The same pot of money should be used to improve training in other forensic fields.


Chris Halkides said...

I spoke with an arson investigator last year. He said that he was trained in 1985 and that everything he learned was wrong. One reason for continuing education is for people to keep up with advances in their field. However, it is clear from the NC SBI audit that another problem is that workers do not understand how to interpret the tests that they do. I am not sure whether or not more training would help. Perhaps.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

In El Paso, it's worth mentioning, staffers were trained in correct procedures and simply failed to apply them when they returned to their day to day work at the lab. So training is good, and necessary, but not in and of itself sufficient without rigorous management and quality control.